One of the most unsuccessful ways to achieve your planned ROIs on a SharePoint deployment is to simply stop after your Go-Live date and use it as an expensive File Share. Yet, despite being a proven path to wasting time and money, there are thousands of expensive File Shares. Looking back at why IT chose SharePoint in the first place, we find that a primary reason for selecting SharePoint is minimizing the demand on IT to solve business problems. In order to do this, End Users must understand how SharePoint can help them create solutions with lower IT effort. Therefore, planning how you are going to drive End User Adoption is a critical step to achieve your goals in the rollout of the platform. One common element to most successful deployments is regularly releasing new functionality that engages End Users.
There are books and articles from others dedicated to planning for End User Adoption of the SharePoint platform, so this information is nothing new. Rather, the purpose of this post is to share some experiences where workflow solutions provide an edge to encourage adoption. Workflow solutions by their very nature solve business process problems. In many cases we are automating steps in the business process; however in most cases, we are enabling an easier form of collaboration with each step in the process. Because of this, we end up reaching more users throughout the development lifecycle and have the ability to influence adoption every step of the way.
One of the keys to the adoption of any solution, regardless if SharePoint is involved, is Ownership. As many have stated before, by involving users in the creation of the solution, you not only uncover better ways of implementation, but you foster a sense of pride in those you consulted. Unfortunately, this cannot happen one user at a time because it would take too long. Workflow solutions solving business process problems offer a way to reach more people since they typically require input from a number of groups of users. This means at least one member from each group represented in the process will have a say in the application and the opportunity to end the project with a sense of pride in what they accomplished. With that said, application development is not a democracy and must be balanced with a strong Process Owner. When you strike the right balance, you end up with an application that achieves its ROI as well as people who feel a sense of pride for what they helped create.
SharePoint is too large and too complex of a product for a large organization to simply spend money on training and expect all their users to adopt and embrace this new technology. Those who do take training usually understand many of the concepts, but then may struggle to create their own solutions. Typically, this happens because during the training they do not have a specific problem in mind they are trying to solve while at the training. Frankly, I have seen end users take less training and become more proficient when they are learning how to use specific solution built on SharePoint rather than a generic training class. Workflow solutions typically offer a great place to start with the most powerful of basics. This is because most simple workflow solutions are based on a few related lists. In the generic classes for SharePoint, the end user is trained on all the ways they can slice and dice data in lists, exactly as they should. However, in the workflow solution, we are training how to findtheir data. “You mean in two clicks, I can see all my open tasks?” This amounts to personalized training and tends to stick with folks as they move on to other solutions.
A good friend of mine would brag to me about his ability to “socially engineer” someone to come to the conclusion that he desired. Creating ambassadors for a platform is a benevolent version of this. Many times, all it takes is providing a great solution to a problem; however, most of the time it takes the right ingredients. Identifying someone who likes solving problems, enjoys helping others, and who is interested in learning new software isn’t always that easy in technology adverse places. One of the great things about implementing workflow solutions is that you work with so many people throughout the process that you have a better chance of finding someone with all the right traits. Better still, they are in a training environment where they can help others learn the new system. That means, you can train them how to help others more efficiently which simultaneously arms your ambassador with more knowledge and provides them with more personalized training.
Workflow solutions offer advantages to driving SharePoint adoption of features that are a logical next step from glorified File Shares. First, take the time to plan an End User Adoption Strategy when deciding to roll out SharePoint. Then, think about how the features and solution you plan to roll out will shape that strategy.